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Bones

 
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Hello everyone! I feel like I have a bit of an ethical conundrum, but Im posting here because it does involve zero waste and I thought it might get more input here than the ethics forum.

I dont know what to do with cooked bones. I try to keep animal stuff out of our compost pile, so no meat, fat or bones for the most part. I hate throwing stuff into the trash for obvious reasons. So what I normally do with stuff like cooked chicken and pork bones is bring them into the woods behind our house and dump them in the same spot that I put guts, feathers, deer heads/hides and whatever other animal scraps we have. It always disappears within a day or two (we have a large variety of predators around and they eat everything).

Im torn about how I feel about this though. My thoughts are that if the predators eat these scraps, they might have no good reason to go after our chickens. And so far that seems to be the case as weve only had 1 chicken killed in almost 4 years. But cooked bones, especially chicken and pork bones, can splinter into sharp shards and cause lots of problems for dogs and cats, which is why I never give them to our pets. On one hand I feel like Im providing a free meal to the predators and keeping them away from our flock and on the other hand I feel like I could be killing them unintentionally due to them eating the cooked bones…

What are your thoughts on this? And what do you all do with your cooked bones?
 
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Have you considered using bones to create biochar?

Retorting them, cooling, and then you could use the biochar as a medium to inoculate and see how it works OR you could just add the cooled char to your existing compost.
 
steward
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I make bone broth with all my bones.

https://permies.com/t/73308/favourite-bone-broth-recipes

Then from the cooked bones (resulting from the bone broth), especially chicken bones, I make Bone Meal:

https://permies.com/t/160397/Bone-Meal

What is leftover can be turned into Biochar:

https://permies.com/t/233779/Making-bone-char

We have a spot off in an out-of-the-way corner where we dump the guts, etc from processing deer so if there is still some I put them there.

Something like compost tea can be made to add calcium to the soil, also.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Timothy Norton wrote:Have you considered using bones to create biochar?

Retorting them, cooling, and then you could use the biochar as a medium to inoculate and see how it works OR you could just add the cooled char to your existing compost.



No, I dont know much about biochar. Would it matter if there’s fat, chicken skin and bits of meat stuck to the bones?
 
Brody Ekberg
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Anne Miller wrote:I make bone broth with all my bones.

https://permies.com/t/73308/favourite-bone-broth-recipes

Then from the cooked bones (resulting from the bone broth), especially chicken bones, I make Bone Meal:

https://permies.com/t/160397/Bone-Meal

What is leftover can be turned into Biochar:

https://permies.com/t/233779/Making-bone-char

We have a spot off in an out-of-the-way corner where we dump the guts, etc from processing deer so if there is still some I put them there.

Something like compost tea can be made to add calcium to the soil, also.



We make broth as well. Most of the chicken we eat gets cooked whole. We then eat all the meat and recook the carcass for broth. Then I pull off the majority of skin, fat and whatever other non-bone stuff to feed to the cat and dog and then am left with chicken bones that have been cooked for like 24 hours in total. With the young store bought meat chickens, usually after that much time in a slow cooker I can basically mash most of the bones by hand and feed those to the cat and dog as well. But with real chickens (young roosters, older laying hens) their bones never seem to get that soft. I suppose I always could pressure cook them to eventually make them soft.

What do you do with bone meal?
 
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Like Anne and many other people here, I make bone broth.  I sometimes freeze the cooked bones until I have enough to make a fairly large batch and then can the broth to keep it for longer and have it handy when I need it.  Incidentally, I also freeze scraps of vegetables like carrot tops, vegetable peels and trimmings, onion and garlic skins, etc and use it to flavor the broth.  It is all strained before canning.

I am lucky enough to have a wood burning cooking stove so the left over bones are put in the oven until very dry and brittle  I then pound them to dust and it either goes in the garden or in a mash I make for the chickens in the winter. The dogs also sometimes, get a sprinkling of the powder on their food.

Guts and innards go to the chickens where they happily fight for it.  The dogs also have some, after all, in their wolf life they would eat the guts of animals they'd killed.

I don't have large animals' carcass, head or hide to deal with, so I cannot help you on this. If  I had, I imagine that I would probably leave it to predators too.
 
Anne Miller
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Brody said, What do you do with bone meal?



Bone Meal is a soil amendment as it is a source of phosphorus.

https://permies.com/t/54265/abut-bone-meal.
 
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Anne Miller wrote:

Brody said, What do you do with bone meal?



Bone Meal is a soil amendment as it is a source of phosphorus.

https://permies.com/t/54265/abut-bone-meal.



I found a hand-crank bone grinder at an antique store. I’m planning to use bone meal as a substrate for sprouts. Haven’t done it yet to be able to articulate how it’s worked out.
 
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Brody Ekberg wrote:No, I dont know much about biochar. Would it matter if there’s fat, chicken skin and bits of meat stuck to the bones?

The extra organic matter isn't a problem when I make biochar. Most of it burns off, however I do try to dry it as much as possible before adding it to my biochar bin. However, I wouldn't try to use *just* bones in a batch. I mix mine in with other bits of wood, like tree prunings +/- sawdust from my neighbour's sawmill.

However, we also heat with a wood-stove, so sometimes I just put the bones in on top of the firewood when lighting the stove in the morning. They get added to gardens and the field when we empty the stove. Thoroughly burned, I don't worry about attracting animals.

It's good that you're considering the danger from brittle bones to wild creatures. The trouble is that sometimes an animal will eat them and get away with it, and other times they're unlucky and can be injured from what I've been told.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Olga Booker wrote:Like Anne and many other people here, I make bone broth.  I sometimes freeze the cooked bones until I have enough to make a fairly large batch and then can the broth to keep it for longer and have it handy when I need it.  Incidentally, I also freeze scraps of vegetables like carrot tops, vegetable peels and trimmings, onion and garlic skins, etc and use it to flavor the broth.  It is all strained before canning.

I am lucky enough to have a wood burning cooking stove so the left over bones are put in the oven until very dry and brittle  I then pound them to dust and it either goes in the garden or in a mash I make for the chickens in the winter. The dogs also sometimes, get a sprinkling of the powder on their food.

Guts and innards go to the chickens where they happily fight for it.  The dogs also have some, after all, in their wolf life they would eat the guts of animals they'd killed.

I don't have large animals' carcass, head or hide to deal with, so I cannot help you on this. If  I had, I imagine that I would probably leave it to predators too.



How do you turn the bones into powder? You pound with a hammer or something?
 
Brody Ekberg
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Vanessa Smoak wrote:

Anne Miller wrote:

Brody said, What do you do with bone meal?



Bone Meal is a soil amendment as it is a source of phosphorus.

https://permies.com/t/54265/abut-bone-meal.



I found a hand-crank bone grinder at an antique store. I’m planning to use bone meal as a substrate for sprouts. Haven’t done it yet to be able to articulate how it’s worked out.



That sounds like the perfect tool for the job! I didnt even know a bone grinder was a thing! I wonder how to do this without a grinder
 
Brody Ekberg
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Jay Angler wrote:

Brody Ekberg wrote:No, I dont know much about biochar. Would it matter if there’s fat, chicken skin and bits of meat stuck to the bones?

The extra organic matter isn't a problem when I make biochar. Most of it burns off, however I do try to dry it as much as possible before adding it to my biochar bin. However, I wouldn't try to use *just* bones in a batch. I mix mine in with other bits of wood, like tree prunings +/- sawdust from my neighbour's sawmill.

However, we also heat with a wood-stove, so sometimes I just put the bones in on top of the firewood when lighting the stove in the morning. They get added to gardens and the field when we empty the stove. Thoroughly burned, I don't worry about attracting animals.

It's good that you're considering the danger from brittle bones to wild creatures. The trouble is that sometimes an animal will eat them and get away with it, and other times they're unlucky and can be injured from what I've been told.



I would worry that burning bones in our woodstove would contribute to creosote accumulation, although i have no idea if it would. I dont burn anything in their but wood and just enough toilet paper/paper towel tubes to get it started.
 
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According to David the Good's book "Compost Everything" (working on a book report for Permies!), dig a hole about 3 feet deep and wide. Throw everything in there... veggies that didn't get eaten, soupy greens, pasta, soup,  shredded bills, poop, moldy bread, BONES, dead chickens, fish, entrails, leaves, wood chips, even dog food, whatever you've got. Cover with well-turned soil, compost, etc. Then plant over the filled-in hole. He calls them melon pits, because he grows his melons over them. Obviously don't do this if the area where the hole is dug is subject to flooding...

They have to be deep enough that critters won't dig it up, but that's about it. Once the deeper roots hit this goldmine, they'll gravitate toward what they need and take off.

There's one idea.

j
 
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Cooked chicken bones splinter when animals eat them. The sharp pieces can lodge in the throats of canines and kill or hurt them. Really not nice to throw them out where they can be eaten.

We burn all our left-over bones in the wood stove. They burn up completely, and the ashes are great to spread on the fields and gardens. We have zero leftover or creosote problems with the bones.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Jim Garlits wrote:According to David the Good's book "Compost Everything" (working on a book report for Permies!), dig a hole about 3 feet deep and wide. Throw everything in there... veggies that didn't get eaten, soupy greens, pasta, soup,  shredded bills, poop, moldy bread, BONES, dead chickens, fish, entrails, leaves, wood chips, even dog food, whatever you've got. Cover with well-turned soil, compost, etc. Then plant over the filled-in hole. He calls them melon pits, because he grows his melons over them. Obviously don't do this if the area where the hole is dug is subject to flooding...

They have to be deep enough that critters won't dig it up, but that's about it. Once the deeper roots hit this goldmine, they'll gravitate toward what they need and take off.

There's one idea.

j



Basically composting in a hole in the ground. My issues with that is needing to save stuff up throughout the winder until I can dig. And even if its summer, i would still need to save up a stinking pile of bones and whatnot before it’s worthwhile to dig the hole.
 
Jay Angler
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Brody Ekberg wrote:

Jim Garlits wrote:According to David the Good's book "Compost Everything" (working on a book report for Permies!), dig a hole about 3 feet deep and wide.... j


Basically composting in a hole in the ground. My issues with that is needing to save stuff up throughout the winder until I can dig. And even if its summer, i would still need to save up a stinking pile of bones and whatnot before it’s worthwhile to dig the hole.

Ecosystem is everything. Where I live, digging a 3 ft hole is a job for the backhoe... and sometimes the rock drill has to help!

And I also agree that it takes a monumental amount of material to fill it. In David the Good's homesteads, and other areas of the southern US, this is a great approach and it will be very helpful, and he also started adding biochar to holes like that.

I have gotten desperate enough at times to freeze my bones until I had a suitable place to put them, but it seems easier to build at least 1 compost that is sufficiently rat-proof to fill the need. I used a metal garbage can with holes drilled into it sunk about 1 foot into the ground at one point. The bones ended up "clean", but they didn't decompose. I regularly pull clean bones out of my composts, let them dry, then put them in the wood stove/biochar cans. Most of those bones aren't ones that were ever cooked - birds that died of natural causes (illness, old age, or flying predators are the biggies).
 
Brody Ekberg
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Jay Angler wrote:
I have gotten desperate enough at times to freeze my bones until I had a suitable place to put them, but it seems easier to build at least 1 compost that is sufficiently rat-proof to fill the need. I used a metal garbage can with holes drilled into it sunk about 1 foot into the ground at one point. The bones ended up "clean", but they didn't decompose. I regularly pull clean bones out of my composts, let them dry, then put them in the wood stove/biochar cans. Most of those bones aren't ones that were ever cooked - birds that died of natural causes (illness, old age, or flying predators are the biggies).



Im not too concerned about raw bones, guts or animal scraps. I consider that to be a part of my live and let live practice here with possible chicken killing predators. I figure that if I bring the scraps into the woods behind our house they will eat it and have less reason to come up into the yard for live chickens. So far, either it’s working or Im lucky. Its the cooked bones that can splinter that Im conflicted about. I can’t feed them to our cat or dog because of possible splintering, but i wonder if wild animals are better able to handle them. If not, maybe they’re slowly suffering and dying somewhere far enough away that I don’t see it.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Jim Fry wrote:Cooked chicken bones splinter when animals eat them. The sharp pieces can lodge in the throats of canines and kill or hurt them. Really not nice to throw them out where they can be eaten.

We burn all our left-over bones in the wood stove. They burn up completely, and the ashes are great to spread on the fields and gardens. We have zero leftover or creosote problems with the bones.



Its not nice if the bones splinter and cause them problems, but it definitely is nice to have free food if the bones dont splinter…

Ive tried burning animal scraps and bones in the garbage (we burn our paper products) or in bonfires and they take a very long time to completely break down, IF they ever do. Ive found our dog chewing on old, burned bones before that she pulled out of an ash pile and thats got to be just as risky as any other cooked bones. Maybe the wood stove would be hotter. But then what do I do the other half of the year when we arent burning wood?
 
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In my experience cooked poultry bones splinter while cooked beef pork and mutton bones do not.

All bones seem to disintegrate with pressure cooking, some take longer than others.

We used to keep bones in the freezer, then make huge pots of bone broth.
The crumbly bones went to the chickens, or were dried and added to planting holes.
It got to the point we couldn't keep up with the amount of broth we were producing.
Spoiled broth went into the compost.
For the most part we have stopped collecting bones in the freezer.
My wife cans broth sporadically.
If she ever starts canning hard-core, we will begine freezing bones again.

For now I save them in a 6 gallon bucket on the porch.
Weather and the addition of wood pellets have kept them from stinking.

I make bone char in a firepit using a retort.
The retort is a chipped enameled pot, but even a couple of soup cans should work.
The retort is maybe two gallons in size.
Even a small amount of bone char is a valuable soil amendment,  so I don't mind the relatively small output of this arrangement.
 
Brody Ekberg
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William Bronson wrote: In my experience cooked poultry bones splinter while cooked beef pork and mutton bones do not.

All bones seem to disintegrate with pressure cooking, some take longer than others.

We used to keep bones in the freezer, then make huge pots of bone broth.
The crumbly bones went to the chickens, or were dried and added to planting holes.
It got to the point we couldn't keep up with the amount of broth we were producing.
Spoiled broth went into the compost.
For the most part we have stopped collecting bones in the freezer.
My wife cans broth sporadically.
If she ever starts canning hard-core, we will begine freezing bones again.

For now I save them in a 6 gallon bucket on the porch.
Weather and the addition of wood pellets have kept them from stinking.

I make bone char in a firepit using a retort.
The retort is a chipped enameled pot, but even a couple of soup cans should work.
The retort is maybe two gallons in size.
Even a small amount of bone char is a valuable soil amendment,  so I don't mind the relatively small output of this arrangement.



We too have an abundance of broth. I’ve successfully slow cooked store bought chicken bones long enough to be able to muck them up with my hands, and when I do that I feed it to the cat and dog. But those are mass produced meat birds. I have yet to cook one of our young roosters or older laying hens bones long enough to make them that soft. Maybe the pressure cooker would do the trick.

Aside from that, maybe I should look into making biochar. Im not sure what a retort is but you mentioned a chipper enameled pot and we just so happened to have a freshly cracked enamored slow cooker pot that I dont know what to do with. Maybe that could be used for biochar?
 
Jay Angler
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Brody Ekberg wrote:Aside from that, maybe I should look into making biochar. Im not sure what a retort is but you mentioned a chipper enameled pot and we just so happened to have a freshly cracked enamored slow cooker pot that I dont know what to do with. Maybe that could be used for biochar?

This thread has some good ideas: https://permies.com/t/44894/Containers-making-biochar-wood-burning
And the whole forum has different methods of making biochar out of different material: https://permies.com/f/190/biochar
 
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I give all my bones to my dog . He gladly naws on them until they are no more. He latter deposits them all over my fields in nitrogen and calcium rich care packages for the grass, which my cows eat and turn back into bones.  Circle of life.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Jeff Marchand wrote:I give all my bones to my dog . He gladly naws on them until they are no more. He latter deposits them all over my fields in nitrogen and calcium rich care packages for the grass, which my cows eat and turn back into bones.  Circle of life.



Not cooked bones though right?
 
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